ETSI joins COVID-19 contact tracing app party

European standards body ETSI created a new industry specification group that is designed to provide a standardization framework for new COVID-19 contact-tracing apps.

ETSI said the group, called Europe for Privacy-Preserving Pandemic Protection (ISG E4P), was created in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. The standards body may also have felt that Europe clearly needed some guidance given the current disarray over approaches to contact-tracing apps.

Indeed, it emerged recently that Britain's National Health Service (NHS) decided to reject the "decentralized" approach being championed by Apple and Google in favor of a "centralized matching" technique. In France and Germany, disputes have arisen over privacy concerns and centralized versus decentralized approaches to such tracking apps.

ETSI, as is its wont, is focusing on enabling the development of interoperable systems. The aim is to support apps that can automatically trace and inform potentially infected users, whilst preserving privacy and complying with relevant data protection regulation.

As explained by ETSI Director-General Luis Jorge Romero, "by their nature smartphones are highly personal devices, carrying large amounts of data about individuals. In ETSI we are committed to support an international development community with a robust standardization framework that allows rapid, accurate and reliable solutions while winning the trust of the population at large."

More than ten organizations, including telcos, vendors and research centers, are said to have joined ISG E4P, and ETSI said it expects more to take part. The standards body noted that the new group will consider the proposed recommendation by the European Commission of a common EU toolbox for the use of technology and data to combat and exit from the COVID-19 crisis.

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— Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

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